A demonstration in the Plaza Bolivar in the Candelaria area of Bogotá last week marked the 28th anniversary of the ‘Disappearances in the Palace of Justice’ on the 6th and 7th November 1985. 28 years ago the m19 guerrilla movement occupied the Palace of Justice in the heart of Bogotá. The State military forces responded immediately with disproportionate violence with the intention of arresting the guerrillas, yet no thought was given to the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians trapped in the building. 94 people died and the palace was set on fire and destroyed. After 28 hours of fighting, 12 people who were in the palace had disappeared. 28 years on, their friends and families are still seeking truth and justice and demand recourse from the Colombian State.
The demonstration consisted of photographs of the civilians who disappeared on this day as well as portfolios of information on each including their jobs, relationship with the State and last time they were seen. People were collecting messages to the disappeared on pieces of material and sewing them into a quilt. Artists were painting powerful images and inviting people to write messages to the disappeared on them. A famous singer was singing songs addressed to the government and the families of lost loved ones. The scene was a powerful and emotive reminder of the struggle that still goes on in the name of justice and human rights in Colombia.
The fight for justice and acknowledgement by the State continues and despite pleas each year, no recourse is currently being given and the victims are but names on the long list of disappeared people in Colombia.
This scene is not unusual throughout Latin America and the term ‘the disappeared’ is commonplace. Such atrocities are difficult to empathise with coming from the UK where, on the whole, the justice system works fairly ensuring recourse is offered. It is an important reminder that crimes across the world still go unpunished and justice is a far off dream for populations under repressive governments. We have to fight for these people. How can we argue that the world is progressing and improving if impunity is still so rife? These people must not be forgotten and the fight to preserve their memory and ensure truth and justice is sought must continue.